Holy Week Reflections #5: Good Friday // Behold the Man…

“Behold the man” said Pontius Pilate, trotting out a scourged Jesus before the crowd… the crowd that called out in bloodthirsty rage for his execution.

In its purest form, all Christian theology and all Christian spirituality is an attempt to do just that: Behold the Man.

We would rather do other things… explain the Man most notably.

And perhaps the time for explaining will come.  But not today.  Today is not the day for explaining.  Today is the day for beholding.

Jurgen Moltmann states that Christian theology is a continuous attempt to deal with the question, “Who is God in the Cross of Christ who was forsaken by God?”

What sort of God is this?

What sort of people are we?

What sort of world do we live in?

Behold the Man.

We are told in the New Testament that the Incarnation and eventual “giving up” of the Son on the Cross were part of a unified act of saving love for people.

What sort of God is this?

What sort of people are we?

What sort of world do we live in?

Behold the Man.

Serpents and forbidden fruit, Pharaohs and Asherah poles, expulsion and exile… Cancer and catastrophe, empires and imperialism, murder, revolt, and rebellion…

We are told that the cross somehow is God’s answer to all of this… as Barth declared, at once God’s “no” to all of this filth, his decisive repudiation of every attempt to construe for ourselves life outside of Life; and yet, simultaneously, God’s astounding “yes” over us.

The time for explaining will come.  But not now.  Not as he bows his head in exhaustion.

Behold the Man.

We gave ourselves over to darkness, and darkness was the result.  Our rebellion let lose a torrent of horror; every evil thing let loose upon humanity.  This was our doing.  We did it.  We are to blame.

Killing fields and concentrations camps, homicide and genocide, racism, sexism, classicism…

We plunged ourselves into a living hell, and there was no escape.

Not until God the Son did the unimaginable, taking on the likeness of sinful flesh, walking in our shoes, living our destiny.  Even our destiny unto death.  He plunged himself into the hell we made.

Somehow, someway, by some mysterious miracle too deep for words, we are told that this act has healed us.  It has brought that old history, the death-history, the God-forsaken history, to an end.

The time for words, for explanations, will come.  But not now.  Not today.  Not as cries out in dereliction from the cross, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me…”

Somehow that gut-wrenching cry was for us, with us, in our place.

Behold the Man.

There is a sense in which the words we use to explain what was going on in the cross of Christ are blasphemous.  We are not comfortable beholding.  So we nervously babble on.  We pour out words to ease the discomfort we feel at it, and in so doing we limit and mitigate the shocking horror of it all.  You and I are complicit in this.  This was BECAUSE of us.  In ways too difficult to express.

And in so doing we likewise truncate the profound, stunning, and inexhaustible beauty of it all.  Too horrible.  Too beautiful.  Too gut-wrenching.  Too stunning.  We use speech like an alcoholic uses booze… to try to keep ourselves from FEELING this.

Words like “propitiate” and “expiate”, “ransom” and “reconcile”… I know they have value.

But not for me.  Not today.  I’m too busy beholding the Man… marveling at the mystery.  If I try to capture it all, my head will crack.  But when I seek to be captured by it…

…my heart melts in worship.

Be still and know that he is God.  Behold the Man.

Lead us into the mystery of your Cross, Lord Christ.

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